Aidan Ware, Gallery Director | November 21, 2016
Recently I attended the Ontario Museums Association Conference in Mississauga. The conference, themed Towards the Future: Diversity & Inclusion provided an important, and rather timely, platform for some incredibly important discussions about ways in which galleries and museums can become more responsive to and with their social, political, and physical environments.
The conference launched with plenary speakers Aletheia Wittman and Porchia Moore who presented their recent project The Incluseum which aims to advance new opportunities for galleries and museums to be inclusive through critical discourse, community building, and collaborative practice. Interestingly, in our round table discussion, they asked us what we would call an organization that included everyone – all backgrounds, cultures, ages, faiths.
What would we name this utterly inclusive space?
It was fascinating to see the reactions of support from my peers for this name. Where terms such as “gallery” and “museum” tend to reference predominantly European histories, Idea Exchange evokes a place of open cultural meetings and exchanges, a site where ideas are freely offered and shared, where learning and engagement are unfettered by preconceptions in the desire for greater understanding and human development.
It was a powerful moment in which to recognize the beauty of our organization and its brave detachment from one-sided cultural conventions.
The conference as a whole was rich with content and wisdom. Chief Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation spoke at length about the impact of Reconciliation and how we can work together to address the consequential environment issues of our time and to speak the truths of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Nadia Kurd, Curator of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery presented on the major exhibition project Walking With Our Sisters which commemorated Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women which included more than 1800 handmade moccasin vamps laid upon fabric pathways which were woven with the unfinished stories of these women. Rabia Kehdr spoke about being a Muslim woman and her advocacy work for those with disabilities, the ROM discussed their robust engagement practices for Canadian newcomers, and Mandy Salter and Rhéanne Chartrand took on the enormous topic of Canadian histories before confederation – those which are not celebrated in the context of Canada 150.
I am really just scratching the surface of what was such a deep well of activity and thought – it was an incredible, full, and vibrant conference within a time of so much uncertainty and change. It reminded me again, why I am so proud to be Canadian.
Namwayut. We are all one.